When the Tampa Bay Rays started the season 13-0 and kept that hot streak going for weeks afterward, it seemed like the Rays winning the AL East was a wrap.
If any team was going to make a charge at them, the Baltimore Orioles didn’t seem like the one.
The AL East standings are a bit surprising if you haven’t looked at them in a while. After the Orioles won again on Monday, they are only four games behind the Rays. Baltimore is 48-29 as its young lineup has come together very fast.
The standings have shifted, and so have the odds.
Rays still lead the AL East odds
Tampa Bay is still, rightfully, a big favorite in the AL East. They’re -750 at BetMGM. The Rays don’t have many weaknesses, with a shiny +150 run differential to prove it.
Yet, it seems like -750 is a bit heavy for a team whose lead is just four games with a half of a season to go.
Are the Orioles a good value? They’re +900 to win the AL East. The New York Yankees, whose offense has been struggling without injured Aaron Judge, are 9.5 games behind the Rays. The rest of the division is 10 or more behind. It’s roughly halfway through the season — the Rays have played exactly 81 games — so there’s a lot of time for all of it to change. But it seems like if anyone is going to beat the Rays, it would be the Orioles.
And while the Rays look like the better team, a +900 shot on the Orioles doesn’t seem like the worst bet.
Orioles have been on a roll
It’s not like you can dismiss a 13-0 start to the season. But since then the Rays are 41-27, a .603 winning percentage. The Orioles are at .623 for the season, and it’s .646 since their mediocre 6-6 start to the season.
That’s cherry picking stats, but the Orioles have been playing very well. There’s a good reason they are back in the AL East race.
Baltimore is being led by its young offensive stars like catcher Adley Rutschman and infielder Gunnar Henderson, who has heated up after a slow start to the season. The Orioles’ starting pitching isn’t great, but it has been decent and the bullpen has been solid all season.
Of course, everything the Orioles do well, the Rays do well too. They are quantifiably better than the Orioles. That’s the reason the Rays are favored by a mile to win the division. And they probably will win the AL East.
But the Orioles’ surge has brought some intrigue to the division race. Maybe Baltimore can’t overtake the Rays, but at +900 odds it might be worth finding out.